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Sunday, 24 June 2007

When hichilenomics met sakism..

Hakainde Hichilema yesterday combined some familiar arguments for political funding (we have come to call these arguments "sakism") with his unique brand of economics (we have come to call this "hichilenomics") . Here is an excerpt from Saturday's Post Newspaper.

He further supported the idea of funding political parties from state coffers. Hichilema said the people of Zambia should be involved in the bona fide political parties. He said if other African countries were funding political parties, the Zambian government could also manage. "We are not talking about extravagant spending. This is meaningful expenditure to make political parties professional. Let's start where problems start and we will then have a quality government," he said.

Naturally, I don't accept that we should fund political parties just because other countries have managed to do so. Neither do I accept his suggestion that we should ask our poor people to fund political parties just to make these parties become professional.

First, even for sakists, making political parties professional has never been their central rationale for party funding. They have tended to argue [incorrectly] that political funding leads to fair play. So hichilenomics is off the limb here from mainstream sakism.

Secondly, how it is difficult to establish a direct link between provision of funding and a more professional political outfit. Just how will giving them more money make them more professional? Will they spend the money on business courses? Professionalism emerges out of the greater need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competing bunch.

Finally, and perhaps more worrying : to ask Government to subsidise political parties as a way of introducing greater political quality is not sound economics. Aside from the second point above, its also extremely counter intuitive. Its like asking Government to give more money to a poorly performing companies! He is saying parties are so poor at their jobs that they need more money to become better!

10 comments:

  1. These guys (HH & SS) are worse than I thought, ah? They just can't wait to lay their hands on new money, can they? How exactly really is 'a strong opposition' benefitting the poor man whose resources they are grabbing??? If they are unable to raise their funds, I think they are incapable of spending wisely that which is delivered to them on a silver platter. The opposition is simply showing their lack of strategic planning and that they will always opt for the easy way out in stead of working hard.

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  2. Public funding of political parties may not make "economic sense." But since political parties have an express moral obligation to serve the interests of Zambia and all its citizens, they need to be minimally supported through the public treasury to prevent them from falling prey to financiers with personal, corporate, partisan, and/or shady external interests.

    Besides, such funding can reduce the enormous political advantage which the ruling political party enjoys over opposition parties, particularly during political campaigns when the Republican president and vice president use public resources at will to travel around the country for the purpose of canvassing for votes. It can also enable opposition parties to gain some limited access to the mass media, to which the ruling party has free access through ZNBC, ZANIS, The Times of Zambia, and the Zambia Daily Mail.

    Without the envisaged public funding of political parties, the ruling party will continue to dominate political activity in parliamentary and local government elections. During the 2006 tripartite elections, for example, MMD was the only party that fielded candidates in literally all the constituencies.

    For a host of reasons, therefore, I am personally in full support of the recommendations made by the Willa Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) in Part VIII, Sections 120-128 of the Draft Republican Constitution prepared in 2005 relating to the funding and regulation of the activities of political parties. Implicit in these recommendations is their ultimate potential to promote intra-party democracy, democratic ideals in general, harmonious inter-party relations, national unity, patriotism, fair play, professionalism / ethical conduct, and the evolvement of a viable multi-party system. Following are excerpts of some of the Sections and Clauses from the Draft Republican Constitution relating to political parties.

    Section 120:

    Clause 2: A political party shall: (a) have a national character; (b) have a democratically elected governing body; (c) promote and uphold national unity; (d) abide by the democratic principles of good governance, and promote and practice democracy through regular, fair and free elections within the party; (e) respect the right of others to participate in the political process, including women, and persons with disabilities; (f) promote and respect human rights and gender equality and equity; (g) promote the objects and principles of this Constitution and the rule of law; and (h) subscribe to and observe any code of conduct for political parties prescribed by an Act of Parliament.

    Clause 3: A political party shall not: (a) be founded on a religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, gender or provincial basis, or seek to engage in propaganda based on any of those matters; (b) engage in or encourage violence or intimidation of its members, supporters, opponents or any other person; (c) establish or maintain a paramilitary force, militia or similar organization; or (d) engage in bribery or other forms of corrupt practices.

    Section 121:

    Clause 3: Any person or group of persons who desires to form a political party shall furnish the Electoral Commission with a copy of its constitution and the names and addresses of its officers and satisfy the Commission that: (a) the party has branches in at least one half of the number of provinces of Zambia; and (b) the party name, emblem, color, motto or any other symbol, has no ethnic, provincial or other sectional connotations or gives the appearance that its activities are confined only to a part of Zambia.

    Section 123:

    Clause 1: The purpose of the Political Parties Fund is to provide financial support to registered political parties, with seats in the National Assembly, in the discharge of their roles and the performance of their functions.

    Clause 2: Money allocated to a political party from the Fund shall be used: (a) to assist political parties disseminate their policies; (b) for the organization of civic education in democracy and the electoral processes; (c) generally for the administrative expenses of the party, excluding emoluments of party officers, which expenditure shall not exceed ten per cent of the money allocated; and (d) for any other legitimate purpose approved by the Electoral Commission.--Kyambalesa, AfC

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  3. Anonymous (Kyambalesa, AfC),

    Accepting for the moment that the problems facing poltical parties which you describe are in need of external remedy, I am not convinced that the constitutional sections and clauses you cited, in combination with other relevant sections and clauses, actually provide that remedy. I will recall to your attention certain additional clauses from the Draft Republican Constitution which may help to illuminate the projected role of public financing of political parties, namely:

    "Section 121 (4) A political party is entitled to present its programmes to the public; and the State shall ensure equal access to the state-owned media.
    (5) A political party and every candidate for election to the Presidency, the National Assembly or any local government legislative body has the right to conduct their campaign freely and in accordance with the law.
    (6) Political parties may form a coalition.
    (7) A political party shall as prescribed by an Act of Parliament submit to the Electoral Commission its revenues and assets and the source of those revenues and assets."


    It appears that the remedy to problems of equal (not limited) access to state-owned media for opposition parties is already contained in Section 121 Clause (4). In combination with Clause (5), if one candidate for office is given free or discounted media access by state-owned organs, then all candiates must be availed of the same offer.

    The dominance of the ruling party over the opposition actually appears to be strengthened through the proposed public funding structure recommended by the draft:

    "Section 123 (4) The money allocated by Parliament to the Fund shall be distributed among political parties, quarterly, by reference to the number of seats secured by each political party in the general elections.
    (5) Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for the formula to be used for the purposes of clause (4)."


    The party in control over Parliament has compete control over how Fund distributions will be made to all parties, and is encouraged to base their distribution on, and perhaps confine it to, the winners of the latest general election (ie themselves). Nowhere does it imply, nor should we believe that a sitting parliamentary majority will so determine, that parties should receive support for unsuccessful candidacies. Thus the proposed schedule of public funding for political parties will penalize opposition candidates by funding incumbents only.

    If I may suggest an alternative to public funding which might better suit your aims in redistributing political finance more equitably among parties, then I would focus on Section 121 (7). If upon declaration of revenues a political party was also required to make a contribution (say 10%) to the Fund, which would then be redistributed among all registered political parties and candidates on an equal basis, then your stated goal that, "since political parties have an express moral obligation to serve the interests of Zambia and all its citizens, they need to be minimally supported through the public treasury to prevent them from falling prey to financiers with personal, corporate, partisan, and/or shady external interests," could be better achieved without resorting to partisan control over tax-payer funds.

    If Section 121 doesn't provide a level playing field for all political parties, then Section 123 won't fix that, and appears to exacerbate the problem in its current form. I sympathize with your vision of a vibrant and evolving muti-party environment whereby voters can be exposed to the best candidates and policies as possible. I strongly encourage you to re-evaulate this draft and consider selective amendment where appropriate. If this is to be a lasting constitutional covenant which protects the rights of political minorities to grow into majorities, then it should be done right the first time, the amendment structure will soon be permanently back in the hands of majorities.

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  4. Kyambalesa, AfC27 June 2007 at 01:19

    Yakima,

    1. I am not able to discern from your contribution whether you are for or against public funding of political parties.

    2. "Section 121 (4) A political party is entitled to present its programs to the public; and the State shall ensure equal access to the state-owned media. ... If Section 121 doesn’t provide a level playing field for all political parties, then Section 123 won’t fix that, and appears to exacerbate the problem in its current form."

    Equal access to the state-owned media is not guaranteed because there is no enforceable mechanism for compelling the State to abide by this proviso. Besides, there are no sanctions against the State if it fails to abide by the proviso. In any case, I do not subscribe to the idea of State-run media. I do not believe any constitutional proviso can compel such media to provide impartial and balanced reporting in the same manner as The Post, Muvi TV and other privately run media institutions in the country have done over the years.

    I am actually an advocate for the privatization of the government-owned media infrastructure in order to provide greater scope for private initiative and investment in newspaper, radio and television businesses. In this endeavor, I believe there is a need to hand over the Zambia Daily Mail printing facilities to the National Archives of Zambia and the Central Statistics Office, and to turn the government television and radio facilities into an autonomous and self-sustaining "Public Broadcasting Services" corporation designed to provide for the following: (a) coverage of parliamentary and judicial proceedings; (b) regular broadcasts of Zambian, African and world news; (c) non-partisan and non-sectarian educational, cultural and informational programs to be generated by ministries and government agencies; (d) coverage of sporting events and ceremonial activities; and (e) programming of government-censored movies and music which do not have the potential to promote moral decay in our country.

    3. "The dominance of the ruling party over the opposition actually appears to be strengthened through the proposed public funding structure recommended by the draft: ‘Section 123 (4) The money allocated by Parliament to the Fund shall be distributed among political parties, quarterly, by reference to the number of seats secured by each political party in the general elections. (5) Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for the formula to be used for the purposes of clause (4).’"

    Currently, the ruling party has the largest number of seats in Parliament mainly because it has well-established branches in all constituencies--an advantage it has gained over the years partly through alleged utilization of public resources, such as the 150 vehicles procured for its use nationwide during the Chiluba era. This advantage will taper off once smaller parties with representation in the National Assembly gain access to nominal public funding to establish themselves firmly in some of the constituencies.

    4. In addition to the reasons I provided in support of nominal public funding of political parties in the first three paragraphs of my first contribution, I believe such funding can also save or relieve political parties from undue domination and control by members who have the wherewithal.

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  5. Kya, Agenda for Change27 June 2007 at 01:44

    Yakima:

    Here is the reality about the overwhelming Power of the State ...

    Zambia:
    Minister Threatens to Revoke Radio Station’s
    License Following Interview With Opposition Leader

    Media Institute of Southern Africa (Windhoek)
    PRESS RELEASE
    25 June 2007
    Posted to the web 26 June 2007

    On 17 May 2007, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Mike Mlongoti threatened to revoke an operating license for Petauke Explorers, a local commercial radio station in Petauke district in the eastern province of Zambia, for featuring the president of one of the leading political parties in an on-air paid-for interview.

    Mlongoti issued the threats after the station featured Michael Sata, a vocal president of the opposition Patriotic Front (PF), which gave the ruling Movement for Multi party Democracy (MMD) tight competition in the 28 September 2006 tripartite elections.

    Various political parties were in Zambia's Eastern province campaigning for the Kapoche parliamentary seat that fell vacant following the nullification of an earlier victory by an MMD candidate, Nicholas Banda, by the Lusaka High court due to malpractices during the September 2006 tripartite elections. The by-election took place on 5 June 2007.

    Sata had been featured on the station on 14 May from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (local time). Petauke Explorers radio station manager, Victor Msadabwe, told MISA Zambia in an email that his station had also featured the United National Independent Party (UNIP) and had extended the same offer to the ruling MMD but they did not respond to the invitation.

    MISA Zambia chairperson Fr Frank Bwalya condemned the threats from Mlongoti on the radio station, describing them as "unwarranted". Bwalya said the threats by government to revoke the station's license clearly go against the culture of media pluralism.

    However, on 28 May, Mlongoti denied the allegations on "Face the Media", a MISA Zambia-sponsored programme on 5FM Radio station, saying that he had only phoned the proprietor to inquire about the complaint logged with him by a concerned Petauke resident who complained that Sata was insulting during an interview on Petauke Explorers radio station.

    Mlongoti said the proprietor regretted the development and informed him that he had since suspended the station manager. He said the government would not arbitrarily shut down radio stations violating the law, but separate managers that featured guests that were fond of insulting others in the name of freedom of speech.

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  6. Gentlemen, if we did a root cause analysis on why the opposition is failing to unseat the ruling party, is lack of resources the biggest problem? I am inclined to think that the sum of the % fraction of the votes for the opposition have always been greater than those for the ruling party. The solution would be summing up these small entities by having a unifying philosophy and not necessarily attempt to grow each one of these small portions by watering them with 'funds'. I realize funding them would give an illusion of 'fair play' where as unity would not even temper with our scarce resources. Are we trying to 'buy' a substitute for unity, which is a required ingredient in most successful democracies? Once we have a 2 - 3 party state, every vote will really count. The opposition is too fragmented to achieve anything. That, in my opinion, is the biggest problem, and not funding. If we start paying the opposition, all we are going to have is a well funded still fragmented opposition movement. What we are doing is essentially buying into the opposition’s excuse as to why they are frail.

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  7. "1. I am not able to discern from your contribution whether you are for or against public funding of political parties." -Kya(mbalesa)

    This is because I take no position on public funding as an end in and of itself, instead evaluating the effectiveness of a given public funding model as a means to advance stated goals. I am not confident that the model represented in Section 123 of the draft is adequate to the goals you have stated, therefore I recommend that you reconsider and withhold your endorsement of the draft until appropriately amended.

    "2. Equal access to the state-owned media is not guaranteed because there is no enforceable mechanism for compelling the State to abide by this proviso. Besides, there are no sanctions against the State if it fails to abide by the proviso." -Kya

    I am a bit confused as Section 121 was included among those to which you declared your "full support". The implication is that you feel that the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court will be unable to enforce their decisions in the event that they rule against the majority party. Otherwise, as a clearly stated constitutional right, equal access to media should be enforceable to the extent to which it can be measured and proven. If the EC is too weak, what actions (including amendments to the draft) can be taken to strengthen it?

    I fully agree that there is no way to effectively legislate against media bias, nor do I see evidence that it would be desirable to do so in any case. Your suggestions on reforming the state-run media sector are intriguing, but as that is a large subject perhaps it is best addressed in a tangential blog (Cho willing). Monitoring equal access or coverage is much more achievable, as advertising minutes or column inches are much easier to measure than bias, and free speech is not unduly infringed upon by equal access provisions during election cycles (if indeed state-run media can be said to possess free speech rights at all).

    "3. Currently, the ruling party has the largest number of seats in Parliament mainly because it has well-established branches in all constituencies--an advantage it has gained over the years partly through alleged utilization of public resources, such as the 150 vehicles procured for its use nationwide during the Chiluba era. This advantage will taper off once smaller parties with representation in the National Assembly gain access to nominal public funding to establish themselves firmly in some of the constituencies." -Kya

    The ruling party (or coalition) will by definition always control the largest number of seats in Parliament. The contention that incumbent MPs make use of public resources in competing with their electoral opposition is likely true, as well as the disproportionate access to resources for MPs in the majority. I do not think that the provisions of Section 123 will serve to erode this advantage as you suggest.

    This is because the formula for funding is designed solely to reward parties "with reference to" their share of electoral victories. That means the MPs divide up the Fund amongst themselves, according to a formula which they also determine. Just how long do we imagine it will be before a majority of MPs determines, for example, that the chairperson of a standing committee has greater responsibility than their fellow MPs, and is therefore entitled to a greater share of the Fund to defer their higher "general administration" costs?

    Even if distributions are made equally between MPs, the ruling party is entitled to the majority of the Fund, and consequently a proportionately higher "buying power". Section 123 therefore excuses subsidizing the coffers of the ruling party by charitably tossing the scraps to the opposition. A party with only a single seat would have to stretch their 0.67% of the Fund to cover party offices in at least half of all provinces, while 50+% would be available to the ruling party to enhance its control within no more than twice as many provinces (at least a 1 to 37 ratio in per province funding).

    "He said the government would not arbitrarily shut down radio stations violating the law, but separate managers that featured guests that were fond of insulting others in the name of freedom of speech." -Kya

    I share your outrage over this blatantly uncivilized behaviour, and am reminded of something once said to me, "Civilization began the day one man decided to throw an insult instead of a rock." This is a fundamental priciple behind press freedom from government, and to respond to insults with the equivalent of rocks undermines society itself. Unfortunately I do not see how the provisions of Section 123 will help to prevent such behaviour on the part of ministers. Since Section 121 (4) only gives reference to media which is state-owned, perhaps an additional clause is required which would guarantee the freedom of private media to publish political commentary from any registered party?

    "Gentlemen, if we did a root cause analysis on why the opposition is failing to unseat the ruling party, is lack of resources the biggest problem? . . . Are we trying to 'buy' a substitute for unity, which is a required ingredient in most successful democracies? " -Fitty_ngwee

    Good questions! As to the first, given the ability of incumbent candidates to utilize the resources of their office to supplement their campaigns, disparity in resources is reasonably a factor against the opposition in any given election (not sure about "biggest").

    Your second question is much harder, and I certainly hope that eventual consensus is for "No." At least you may be consoled by the fact that the draft in its current form will not necessarily distribute public funding to parties at all unless they first win seats in Parliament. What we may be doing is buying into the majority's attempt to blame securing disproportionate public financing for themselves on their opponents' admitted lack of development.

    I would suggest that a far more direct and effective means of distributing funds to materially disadvantaged registered parties would be for a strengthened Electoral Commission to "tax" all declared political contributions to all parties at a flat rate and place the proceeds into a Fund. The EC could then distribute funds equally between candidates and elections, ensuring nominal financing for all registered party candidates without regard to incumbency. Parties which raise an average amount of money will see their coffers unchanged, while those that raise more will subsidize in part those that raise less, no need to dip into the treasury or involve Parliament in the process. Such a system would go much further towards the goals articulated by Kya than the current draft constitutional language will.

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  8. Yakima, thanks for the consolation that only winning candidates of any political party may be entitled to project and/or development funds. That is a good point and it is far from what HH & SS are suggesting. Another way of helping legitimate opposition parties could be matching what they raise, if they meet a certain financial and membership criteria so that we do not waste our resources funding some 10th ranked 'Fitty & Nephews' political party that has no chance of winning the presidency at all. Independents can also be 'match funded' if they raise some nominal amount (K100M?)

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  9. Yakima,

    I am happy for someone to do a short piece on this and I can upload it for discussion (similar to what Herman Kunda does).

    Its not a problem!

    I have sort of been think about media issues, but from a different angle! I am at the moment writing a short piece called the "Post Newspaper Vs Zambia Democracy?" The issue is whether the Post Newspaper is a monopoly in free press, and it is using its dominance to shape public opinion and whether by doing that it has eroded its quality and subsquently eroding the democratic process. that is abusing its dominance. Among the sources of the Post's monopoly power is "lack of competition", its hold on the "urban readership", its "first mover advantage" and so forth. Its a sensitive and difficult piece to write and thats why it has not appeared! But essentially, I think the solution to improving the Post Newspaper newspaper is to sell of the Government papers and let them compete with the Post. This way we can have a thriving and competitive media.

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  10. where have these guys seen the money to splash out on their hobbies?

    in other countries where political parties are supported by the gov. they provide a paper trail of there activities.

    which is more important medicine at uth or some one being cynical?

    i find HH very lost. in this game he has joined timing is vital.people will still think of him as an opportunitist when infact he can lead this country better than others.

    improve the lives of zambians first.let them start worrying about whether he should go for holiday to livingstone or mfuwe or a street lamp being off for two days.then you can start asking these question HH&SS.

    right now we are faced with lots of questions of having few children, lest they all die.

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